Is Genome’s Shape as Important as Its Content?

If there is one thing that recent advances in genomics
have revealed, it is that our genes are interrelated, “chattering” to
each other across separate chromosomes and vast stretches of DNA.
According to researchers at The Wistar Institute, many of these complex
associations may be explained in part by the three-dimensional structure
of the entire genome.

A given cell’s DNA spends most of its active lifetime in a tangled
clump of chromosomes, which positions groups of related genes near to
each other and exposes them to the cell’s gene-controlling machinery.
This structure, the researchers say, is not merely the shape of the
genome, but also a key to how it works.

Their study, published online as a featured article in the journal Nucleic Acids Research,
is the first to combine microscopy with advanced genomic sequencing
techniques, enabling researchers to literally see gene interactions. It
is also the first to determine the three-dimensional structure of the
fission yeast genome, S. pombe. Applying this technique to the
human genome may provide both scientists and physicians a whole new
framework from which to better understand genes and disease, the
researchers say.


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